[Skip to Content]
Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address 18.204.55.168. Please contact the publisher to request reinstatement.
[Skip to Content Landing]
Original Investigation
October 2018

Association of Prenatal Maternal Depression and Anxiety Symptoms With Infant White Matter Microstructure

Author Affiliations
  • 1Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • 2Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • 3Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • 4Department of Medical Physics, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison
  • 5Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison
  • 6Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill
  • 7Department of Computer Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill
JAMA Pediatr. 2018;172(10):973-981. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.2132
Key Points

Question  Are prenatal maternal depression and anxiety symptoms associated with individual variations of offspring white matter microstructure?

Findings  In this cohort study of 101 mother-infant dyads, prenatal maternal depression and anxiety symptoms were associated with infants’ white matter microstructure at 1 month of age. Moreover, analyses suggest that prenatal maternal depression and anxiety may be differentially associated with infant male and female microstructure.

Meaning  The prenatal environment is important to early brain development, and underlying white matter microstructure may be susceptible to the continuum of maternal depression and anxiety symptom exposure during the prenatal period.

Abstract

Importance  Maternal depression and anxiety can have deleterious and lifelong consequences on child development. However, many aspects of the association of early brain development with maternal symptoms remain unclear. Understanding the timing of potential neurobiological alterations holds inherent value for the development and evaluation of future therapies and interventions.

Objective  To examine the association between exposure to prenatal maternal depression and anxiety symptoms and offspring white matter microstructure at 1 month of age.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This cohort study of 101 mother-infant dyads used a composite of depression and anxiety symptoms measured in mothers during the third trimester of pregnancy and measures of white matter microstructure characterized in the mothers’ 1-month offspring using diffusion tensor imaging and neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging performed from October 1, 2014, to November 30, 2016.Magnetic resonance imaging was performed at an academic research facility during natural, nonsedated sleep.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Brain mapping algorithms and statistical models were used to evaluate the association between maternal depression and anxiety and 1-month infant white matter microstructure as measured by diffusion tensor imaging and neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging findings.

Results  In the 101 mother-infant dyads (mean [SD] age of mothers, 33.22 [3.99] years; mean age of infants at magnetic resonance imaging, 33.07 days [range, 18-50 days]; 92 white mothers [91.1%]; 53 male infants [52.5%]), lower 1-month white matter microstructure (decreased neurite density and increased mean, radial, and axial diffusivity) was associated in right frontal white matter microstructure with higher prenatal maternal symptoms of depression and anxiety. Significant sex × symptom interactions with measures of white matter microstructure were also observed, suggesting that white matter development may be differentially sensitive to maternal depression and anxiety symptoms in males and females during the prenatal period.

Conclusions and Relevance  These data highlight the importance of the prenatal period to early brain development and suggest that the underlying white matter microstructure is associated with the continuum of prenatal maternal depression and anxiety symptoms.

×